Rail commuters are furious car parking costs at Brighton train station have gone up 40 per cent.

Passengers leaving their cars in the 850-space car park behind the station will now have to pay £5 a day instead of £3.50.

The increase by South Central, which operates the car park off Cheapside, has infuriated commuters who insist they are already paying the price of expensive rail travel.

University lecturer Dr Paul Dawson, who regularly travels from his home in Brighton to London, said: "It's another typical decision by the rail operators who seem more interested in making money out of commuters than in providing a good service.

"The car park should be there to encourage people to leave their cars and use the train. By putting up the charges people will be less likely to use the train. They are cutting off their nose to spite their face."

Mark McCall, 45, of First Avenue, Hove, said: "It's absolutely outrageous. They've done it purely to pass on the losses they have made through waste and inefficiency on to people already suffering under this rail regime.

"If they are so concerned about non customers using the car park they should get people to show their rail cards. It's just a pathetic excuse for a ludicrous price hike."

The new charges were introduced on January 1 although most commuters will not be affected until they return to work on Monday.

A spokesman for South Central said the daily charge was being increased to deter non rail users from taking up all the spaces.

He said: "The reason we have put it up is that other car parks in the area charge motorists £11 a day. Our car park is becoming full of locals who are trying to avoid parking elsewhere.

"We are just trying to even the balance up a bit more so our season ticket holders have somewhere to park."

Sam Dixon, station manager said: "The price has remained the same for the last two years. But since NCP increased its charges in November our car park is often full by 8.30am so customers who turn up after then have nowhere to go."

He said most rail users used monthly or annual season tickets, the cost of which remained the same.

Mr Dixon added: "It's only a small percentage of customers who turn up and pay by the day. We are not expecting people to complain because it's still much cheaper than elsewhere in the city."

The price increase compares favourably with the NCP car parks in North Road and Trafalgar Street which charge £10.80 and £7.70 respectively during a 24-hour period.

But the cheapest option for rail users is now the city council-run car park in London Road which charges users £4.40 a day, although this price is likely to be reviewed in April.

A spokeswoman for the council said: "The distance between the car park and railway station has put people off in the past but perhaps it will be a bit more popular now. Commuters can save £3 a week and get a bit of exercise at the same time."

Mike Hewiston, secretary of the Rail Passengers Committee for Southern England, said one solution would be for rail users to get a rebate on their ticket in return for paying a higher parking charge.

He said: "Shoppers parking in cheap station car parks is a real problem but increasing the cost of parking simply makes it less attractive for people to use the train. It's not a long-term solution."